Following last month’s Anniversary edition extravaganza it was business as usual for Folk Club Bonn in March. ‘As usual’ meaning trying to fit a lot of keen musicians playing disparate styles of Folk who would happily play all night into a show that ends on the same night it started. Throw in a guest slot band that called in sick at the last moment (no not THAT virus thankfully) and you can understand if organizer Steve Perry looks like a haunted man as he arrives for another evening of expecting the unexpected at Dotty’s .
Things got so desperate at one point during the week after Gerd Schinkel called in sick that even I was granted a floor spot. Next day, the very talented duo of Steve Crawford and Sabrina Palm had kindly agreed to fill the empty spaces – but I’d been offered my spot, and no one was going to claw it back!
Theme this evening was ‘Age’ so John Harrison‘s opening poem (by Bernie Parry) was spot on with its tale of a man on his lonely allotment where he labours and toils because “there’s not much to do since he turned 65”. I guess he would me much happier now, since at 65 today he would have plenty ‘to do’ being still two years away from retirement. Jealous? you bet. Tom T. Hall’s tale of ‘Pamela Brown’ was John’s second number. I’d never heard of it before, but it’s message of young love rejected only to realize later that things really turned out for the best reminded me of Ian Hunter’s ‘Irene Wild’, whose rejected lover stands alone at a bus stop and admits with relief that “If she hadn’t stood me up, I’d still be there”. In Hunter’s case he went on to become a rock star as singer with Mott the Hoople – in Tom T’s maybe a Country singer. John’s opening triple salvo finished with a re-write of Clapton’s ‘Alberta, Alberta’ which was itself a re-write of Bo Carter’s ‘Corrine, Corrina’. Clapton actually got sued for his re-write John – I guess none of the three could resist an infectious tune like this one. John Harrisons version was called ‘Corona, Corona’ and the audience was so quiet you could hear a man cough.
Gert Müller cleared his throat as quietly as possible so as not to panic anyone before reciting ‘Trompeten von Jericho’ and, as with every appearance by Gert, there was loud applause and I vowed to get in some Bönnsch (dialect) training sometime.
The earlier mentioned absence through illness of Gerd Schinkel was proof indeed that a cat falls on its feet. The ‘cat’ that is Bonn Folk certainly got the cream when Steve Crawford and Sabrina Palm stepped in to fill the gap. Steve’s last visit was with the popular band Le Clou. but he’s also been here if I remember correctly with Band of Crows and very possibly in the past with Sabrina before too. Tonight was a perfect opportunity for the duo to showcase their new CD which, rather cunningly for a duo, is called ‘Two’. It’s a fine collection that showcases both Steve’s excellent Folk vocals and Sabrine’s even more excellent Folk fiddle style. There was certainly a lot to like in their two sets this evening, my personal favourite being Robbie Burn’s ‘Such a Parcel of Rogues in a Nation’ but maybe that’s because I couldn’t help agreeing with Steve that it might have been written only yesterday about the current ‘parcel of rogues’ running the British into the ground.
Mario Dompke was so concerned at having to follow such a dynamic duo in part one that he reminded the audience that if they walked out and went home during his slot they would miss Steve & Sabrina in part two. A bit harsh on both himelf and singing partner Sonja Daniels really, since he delivered some very tricky guitar atmospherics to back her version of ‘Gabrielle’s Song’. The audience stayed. But would they stay to the end for the next act – me?
I wrote ‘Jack’s Song’ back in England. When I visit home in Portsmouth I sleep in what was my parent’s bedroom, and I got to thinking when I was there last that, when you have two young children you do a lot of talking in the bedroom. I doubt that my father spoke of his time as a Japanese prisoner of War to my mother there though. He certainly never spoke to his son or daughter about it. ‘Jack’s Song’ was my guess at what he would have said to my mum if he had spoken. She died some years before he did, so my lyrical perspective was that he was telling her in her absence what he couldn’t say when she was there. I took some liberties with the lyrics, “watched men dying on a railway line” – prisoners in Palembang were actually more likely building an airstrip for the oil refineries, and, “If there really is a God, then it isn’t mine”, is pure conjecture on Dad’s religious beliefs I don’t know if dad was bitter with God or took comfort from him. The only person Dad ever had a bad word for was Maggie Thatcher so maybe forgiving God would have come easier. In short, a complicated World of emotions that mighty singer-songwriters like Leonard Cohen would struggle with – I took my best shot. The audience was still there at the end. Mission accomplished.
Daniel Bongart had the enviable task of following me. So confident was he that he had a relatively new song for the evening. ‘Maybe Tommorrow We’ll Meet Again’ is a reflection that with age (our theme this month!) we start to count the influences in our lives and wonder whether those fleeting influencers who left their mark on us might turn up again sometime in our lives. “I see you in the mirror when I look into my eyes” – nice line Daniel. Indeed, a nice song altogether, and one to hum along to with a good whiskey in one hand and a handkerchief in the other to wipe a tear-stained eye.
Rainer Goetzendorf and his acoustic guitar were next up. Rainer is a new visitor to Folk Club, but not a new face on the Bonn music scene as a part of the Hot Pepper Jazz Band. As a Folk musician Rainer is very much a political animal as his songs ‘Wahnsinn, meine Wut sie wächst’ attacking the automobile industry and ‘Gaia, die schöne blaue Perle’ addressing sustainability amptly demonstrated. Serious stuff indeed, I’m not sure this was the right platform for it – but Folk music has always been a place for free speech, and Rainer maybe should have a sticker on his guitar warning ‘This guitar kills political greed’.
Stephan Weidt and Ulrike Hundt started with some advertising for an upcoming gig as Zwei von Zwei that includes electric guitar, drums and bass. They proved though that their style of Progressive Folk Rock is also effective with just vocals guitar and flute. A new composition from Stephan, ‘Wut’ showed some fine dynamics between filigran flute and raw vocalisation. Maybe the latter would have profited further with some e-guitar, but electric cables at Folk Club are forbidden of course. So what was that cable being carried in by Matthew Lowe of tonight’s main guests for?
Okay, the cable turned out to be part of an electric guitar tuner. Stables are Matthew Lowe and Daniel Trendholme, a duo who have played their share of dark and noisy pubs back in the UK where such a tuner does the job when it’s difficult to either see or hear as Matthew explained later. Not that small pub gigs are the measure of Stables popularity today though. They ae hoping to flying high in fact and hoping make a return later this year to play Glastonbury and Cambridge, two of the biggest Folk Festivals on the British isles. Not bad for two men who only started playing together in earnest in 2016. Not long afterwards their debut release was acclaimed by Old Grey Whistle Test legend Bob Harris as “Brilliant” and described as a “Personal favourite” by Folk-Rock legend Tom Robinson. With such glowing praise an appearance at Bonn Folk Club was clearly only a matter of time…
The duo really do have a softly, softly way of finding their musical way into the listener’s hearts, beginning with ‘Dandelions & Daisies’ from the 2018 Reverie album which is a gentle tune inspired by a garden near Matthew’s home in Forest Hill West London, and perfectly showcasing the band’s vocal harmonies. You could almost feel that Dan Trenholme was struggling to keep his bass drum footpedal soft, such was the rapt attentiveness of the audience. I can well imagine some ‘wellie’ going into the percussion at London pubs in late evening though. ‘Disagree’ continued the ‘One Man Band’ feel of the duo’s music with that oomphy bass pedal and brushed snare drum keeping the tempo up. Matthew disarmingly admits he doesn’t know what ‘Eleven Hours’ is about even though it’s his own song, but how can you not like these two after they admitted to touring round in a car so small that they had to leave the banjo in London? ‘I Want to Meet You’ was a wonderful pop number to have everyone tapping toes along to – not bad considering no one except Matthew and Daniel had heard the song before. They finished with one that everyone had heard before though, Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’, to loud and well deserved applause. Lots of cd’s sold afterwards I hope, maybe a lino cut or two (by Daniel). I discovered online that they also have their own line of coffee. It seems like just about the only think Stables don’t offer is horses.
Another evening to prove that Bonn Folk Club continues to punch well above its weight in attracting top quality musicians from across Europe. All that worrying about putting a show together with cancellations and we had another sizzler. At least Steve won’t have to worry about the bill for April, Covid-19 has put paid to FC-112 unfortunately. Stay healthy and hopefully we will be singing Jock Stuart again soon!